Dallas, Texas- The global spread of COVID-19 has created an imminent epidemiological threat to Syria and refugees in surrounding countries. Cases have been reported in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Israel and Turkey. North Western Syria is particularly vulnerable given a population of close to 4 million people, including 1 million IDPs, packed into densely populated areas. Years of war and malnutrition have left many people’s immune systems compromised and the entire population susceptible to drastically higher mortality rates. It is predicted that the transmission rates will be dramatically higher than global averages due to densely populated internally displaced persons (IDP) camps and multiple families living in the same dwelling.
In the past 12 months alone, 85 medical facilities have been attacked and most are currently not functional. The medical infrastructure cannot handle the existing population needs let alone a wide spread pandemic. The medical system suffers from a shortage of masks, gloves, gowns, disinfectant, thermal scanners and other medical supplies.
UOSSM calls on the international community to immediately provide personal protective equipment, thermal scanners, quarantine units and lab testing kits/ capacity to prevent this humanitarian catastrophe.
Dr. Khaula Sawah, Vice President of UOSSM USA said, “Protective measures must be taken to prevent a major outbreak of the Coronavirus in areas of displacement. People are living in densely populated areas and there is no option of social distancing for many. Medical facilities are in desperate need of medical supplies and testing equipment. We urge the international community to ensure that families in areas of displacement are protected to prevent another humanitarian catastrophe.”
UOSSM has developed a preparedness plan for Covid-19 as follows:
• UOSSM developed guidelines based on WHO guidelines and publications, which cover identification of the disease and how to manage the suspected cases.
• The guideline was distributed in all UOSSM PHC centers.
• UOSSM asked all health workers to attend the WHO online course “Introduction to emerging respiratory viruses, including novel coronavirus”.
• UOSSM technical field team will provide health workers in all health facilities with technical support with regards to the coronavirus.
• UOSSM will prepare IEC, posters and brochures about the virus and hygiene. They will be distributed in PHC centers.
• UOSSM’s technical team will organize a meeting with all health workers in UOSSM PHC centers in order to train them on the detection of suspected cases, handling of cases, referral of cases, and reporting.
UOSSM is coordinating closely with the WHO and other partners to manage this situation as it develops.